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Wiltshire Council gives up 0845 number for emergency calls

Following pressure from the Fair Telecoms Campaign (FTC) and The Observer newspaper, Wiltshire Council has stopped using a premium rate - or 0845 - phone line for its emergency adult care service.

One night Peter Codner - a retired barrister who is confined to a wheelchair after a stroke - was in crisis and needed urgent help.  After calling the Council's emergency number from his mobile phone and queuing for a reply, he found that he had been charged £80 for the calls.

Some premium numbers have been outlawed, but for public services the government guidelines merely call them inappropriate.  Over 30 councils are still using 0845 numbers - including for council tax payments.

Wiltshire Council have refunded the £80 to Mr Codner and stopped using the 0845 number. The FTC also found that Wiltshire Council had advertised the same premium number for rough sleepers to access their emergency plans during February's cold weather.  

As The Observer reported, the irony is that while premium numbers make a lot of money for mobile phone operators, the council would have hardly seen any of it.

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